Whilst MPs were on their summer recess the government introduced a draconian piece of legislation called the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill, or the ‘gagging law’.
A reaction to another scandal of an MP taking cash and favours from an undercover journalist posing as a lobbyist, the Bill has turned out to be one of the most draconian pieces of legislation the coalition has created – uniting figures from across the political spectrum including Owen Jones, the Guido Fawkes blog, Zac Goldsmith, the Taxpayers Alliance, 38 Degrees, Greenpeace and the TUC.
UNISON policy officer Ben Kind said: “Whilst the media have focused largely on the failed attempt to introduce a statutory register of lobbyists (that ironically will apply to fewer lobbyists than the existing voluntary register!) it is the proposals to further restrict election campaigning by those other than formal political parties and actual candidates – the ‘non-party campaigning’ bit.”
“The Bill will gag charities, NGOs, blogs, think-tanks, trade unions and other campaigning organisations by severely restricting how much money they can spend on political campaigning in the year running up to a general election and making the rules apply to so much activity that many organisations will be caught out just by staff and office costs alone. The TUC thinks it may be forced to cancel its 2014 Congress and will be prevented from holding any demonstrations because of the new spending limits. The same could apply to UNISON.
“We know the Bill is a cynical attempt to stop those who have complaints about the coalition government and their policies from being able to voice them in the run up to the 2015 general election.”
UNISON is urging its members to read more about it and get in touch with their MPs through 38 Degrees and their website.